The Lawrence school district owns quite a bit of undeveloped real estate in town, some of which may be needed in the near future for new elementary or middle schools.
That was one of the messages Monday afternoon as the board — including its two new members, Adina Morse and Kristie Adair — engaged with administrators in a "goal-setting" workshop. No decisions were made about any of the properties, but it's an issue the board is likely to address, maybe multiple times, in the coming year or two.
The property likely to get the most attention in the near future is a 34-acre tract near 15th and George Williams Way, just south of Langston Hughes school.
It's also adjacent to a planned new interchange with the South Lawrence Trafficway, and directly abuts the site of upcoming residential and commercial developments known as Langston Heights and Langston Commons which will add an estimated 229 residential housing units to the area.
Superintendent Rick Doll told board members Monday that they need to think about how they'd like to use that property. Some of the obvious options on the list include expanding Langston Hughes, which is already close to capacity; building a new elementary school; or building a new middle school.
"It's not uncommon, especially in suburban areas, for elementary schools to sit side by side," Doll said. It's basically a matter of drawing attendance zones around them.
Not far from the Langston-area property, the school district also owns a 50-acre tract on the west side of the trafficway. Doll said the new interchange is likely to spur even more development on that end of town, and that parcel may also be needed for future expansion.
On the southeast end of town, the district owns a 76-acre tract south of 23rd Street, near the spot where the new extension of the SLT will connect with Kansas Highway 10.
Doll noted the district owns two small parcels of land that probably won't ever be needed for any kind of expansion.
One of those, oddly enough, is a small Civil War-era cemetery north of Interstate 70, just east of Michigan Street. Somehow, the district acquired it during the massive school consolidation process in the 1960s when the old Riverside district was merged into Lawrence.
Doll said the cemetery is only accessible by walking through private property in the residential area that has built up next to it. Neighbors evidently are fond of it and use it as a walking trail. Doll suggested it might be a good idea to deed that property over to the neighborhood or some other organization.
Finally, he said, the district owns one parcel on a residential block along 14th Street, just north of Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. At one time, he said, it was thought the school might want a full football stadium and oval track that would stretch across 14th Street. But he said city officials are not keen on the idea of closing the street, and so that plan is unlikely ever to come to fruition.
Adam Holden is going back to work for Fort Hays State University after his resignation as assistant superintendent in the Lawrence school district takes effect July 1, although he plans to continue living in the Lawrence area.
Holden said this week he will become chair of the Department of Teacher Education at FHSU's College of Education and Technology. While he will have to be on the western Kansas campus from time to time, he said he and his family intend to continue living in Lawrence for the time being.
"The department has both on-campus and virtual students and offers courses in both," Holden said.
Holden had been an assistant professor at FHSU before he was hired in April 2012 as assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in the Lawrence school district. At that time, he succeeded Kim Bodensteiner, who had been the district’s chief academic officer since 2007.
Holden announced in May that he would resign his job in Lawrence effective June 30, citing personal and family considerations.
The announcement came shortly after the district decided to reorganize the central office administration, which involved splitting that job into two positions: an assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, which will be filled by Angelique Kobler; and a newly created position of assistant superintendent for technology and educational programs, which will be filled by Jerri Kemble.
Apparently there has been some amount of grumbling among parents and others about the fact that the Lawrence school district is holding high schol graduation ceremonies in the middle of the week this year.
For some people, that may cause problems, especially for parents who typically work evening shifts, and those who want to invite all the aunts and uncles and grandparents to travel from out of town so they can take part in a family celebration.
Double that for families that have students in both Lawrence and Free State high schools,
But the decision to hold this year's ceremonies on Tuesday and Wednesday - as opposed to back-to-back ceremonies on either a Saturday or Sunday - was actually made more than a year ago. And school district officials say it came in response to a multitude of other problems that arose from all the other alternatives.
It seems to be another case that shows how negotiating school district calendars is sometimes only slightly less complicated than negotiating peace in the Middle East.
In years past, the schools used to have back-to-back ceremonies at Memorial Stadium. But that changed a few years ago when the high schools got their own football stadiums. Since then, they've held separate graduations on their own "home turf," so to speak. That pretty much requires holding them on separate days.
The Lawrence school board actually made the decision about this year's dates more than a year ago, at its April 9, 2012, meeting, after hearing a report from Free State principal Ed West and Lawrence High principal Matt Brungardt.
The decision was reported in the Journal-World the following day.
"The high schools have been challenged in the past to schedule a date for graduation that avoids conflicts with Kansas University," the principals said in a memo to the board. "The school administrators also feel strongly that graduation should closely follow the last day of classes for seniors."
So the two schools formed a committee to explore all the options and make a recommendation to the school board. Basically, it boiled down to this:
The last day for seniors was Thursday, May 16. KU's graduation was set for the following Sunday, May 19, with Monday the 20th reserved as a back-up date.
That left Tuesday and Wednesday, the 21st and 22nd, as the next available days.
It's still not certain, however, whether the district will follow the same pattern in future years.
"The committee operated under the presumption that the dates were being recommended for next year (2013) only and no precedence (sic) for future years was being set," the memo said. "If the events go well next year and weekday graduations continue, both principals feel a consistent and permanent plan would be best."